Student ICT Capability Vs. ICT skills

Developing student ICT capability - Accredited online professional development for teachers

By Michael Hilkemeijer

The use of techniques in the integration of ICT in the classroom has always been the main aim of teachers when it comes to implementing any sort of hardware or software. Take for example, one of the most common forms of software students excessively use to complete their work on – Microsoft Word! The problem, however, is that gradually over time these techniques change into a routine for us. We don’t need to think about what to do as it no longer requires a conscious thought. Here lies the problem. Teachers should focus on concepts, processes and higher order skills.

The difference between teaching ICT skills and ICT capability is just that. As ICT capability consists of five key components that are essential for students to understand. The most significant one is higher order conceptual understanding at it enables students to have the disposition to construct ICT solutions to problems that are relevant to the context and are based on the opportunities and constraints of the systems available (Kennewell & Tanner, 2000).

Skills or routines play an important part in the development of ICT capability. Students need to learn them but most importantly, they need to be aware of what they know and be able to decide whether it is appropriate to use or not.

To be able to use ICT effectively, students must therefore make decisions such as being able to recognise that the use of ICT would be appropriate, plan how the ICT resources will be used, monitor their progress, evaluate the outcomes that arise, explain and justify their solutions to problems and reflect on their learning throughout the task. All these skills are metacognitive in nature. In other words, students have the knowledge and control over their own cognitive systems.

Student ICT Capability

For teachers then, the issue is not whether a student knows an ICT technique or process, it is whether they know that they know it and thus able to decide to use it (Kennewell & Tanner, 2000). It is the decisions that students make in order to complete a finished task that requires judgement by teachers.

Another point to remember, is that Australian Curriculum has embedded opportunities throughout all Learning Areas for teachers to develop student ICT capability. This is made evident in the recognition of ICT capability as a significant 21st century skill. What all this means is that as a teacher, it is imperative that you design and develop ICT activities or tasks that require students to make decisions throughout the whole work and to question the ease and appropriateness of ICT to the task.

Here’s what you can do when focusing on the development of higher order skills and knowledge:

  • significant pupil autonomy in the selection of tools and resources;
  • active participation by pupils in the process of planning and evaluating the use of ICT in problem situations;
  • teacher intervention in the form of focusing questions to assist pupils in the formation of generalisations;
  • the requirement that pupils articulate their thoughts about the opportunities and constraints offered by ICT techniques, processes and strategies which they have experienced (articulation might be verbal, written or via e-mail, but should be interactive);
  • that teaching should develop pupils’ enthusiasm and confidence about ICT;
  • That pupils be given opportunities and encouragement to reflect formally on their ICT learning.

(Kennewell & Tanner, 2000, 47)

ICT capability is a significant 21st century skill that students must learn. Last year, the 2014 NAPLAN ICT literacy results were released and confirmed the fact that despite $20 Billion being rolled out by the Australian Government for technology in the classroom, exposure to ICT is not in itself sufficient to ensure that learning occurs in either an ICT subject or in another curriculum subject. The lack of intellectual challenge in lessons that focuses little more on skills and techniques is likely to reinforce this trend. Student ICT capability developmentmust be a priority for teachers if there is to be a change.

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